USA keeper Hope Solo handed six-month ban after calling Sweden a 'bunch of cowards'
United States goalkeeper Hope Solo has been handed a six-month ban by her national federation after labelling Sweden "a bunch of cowards" following her side's Olympic quarter-final defeat.
The 35-year-old hit out after Sweden, eventual runners-up in Rio, defeated the USA 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the last-eight encounter on August 12.
"I thought we played a courageous game. I thought we had many opportunities on goal," said Solo, who has made 202 appearances for the USA.
"I think we showed a lot of heart. We came back from a goal down, I'm very proud of this team. And I also think we played a bunch of cowards.
"The best team did not win today, I strongly, firmly believe that."
A statement from the federation on Wednesday evening read: "US Soccer has suspended goalkeeper Hope Solo from the US women's national team for six months for conduct that is counter to the organisation's principles."
As a result of the suspension, Solo would not be eligible for national selection until February 2017, but the player later confirmed on her Facebook page that her national-team contract had been terminated.
"For 17 years, I dedicated my life to the US women's national team and did the job of a pro athlete the only way I knew how - with passion, tenacity, an unrelenting commitment to be the best goalkeeper in the world, not just for my country, but to elevate the sport for the next generation of female athletes," she said.
"In those commitments, I have never wavered. And with so much more to give, I am saddened by the federation's decision to terminate my contract.
"I could not be the player I am without being the person I am, even when I haven't made the best choices or said the right things. My entire career, I have only wanted the best for this team, for the players and the women's game, and I will continue to pursue these causes with the same unrelenting passion which which I play the game."
US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said the remarks by Solo, who was previously handed a 30-day suspension by the national federation in January 2015 for a "poor decision" during a training camp, were "unacceptable".
"The comments by Hope Solo after the match against Sweden during the 2016 Olympics were unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our national-team players," he said.
"Beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect. We expect all of our representatives to honour those principles, with no exceptions."